‘For every tear a victory’

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

This is an extraordinary story about the extraordinary life of an extraordinary man his war medals, his academic achievements, his talisman, and everything else that made him the genius of a man the book portrayed him to be.

For Every Tear A Victory, published in 1964, is the biography of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which he commissioned. It catapulted him to public consciousness and sealed his destiny as the country’s 10th president a year after.

History would later prove some of the narratives in the book as twisted, sugarcoated or entirely false; some called it a fairy-tale.

Tyrant to many a generation of Filipinos, hero to his loyalists and apologists, Ferdinand Marcos certainly left an indelible mark in the country’s history, which to this day is still felt by the tens of thousands of Martial Law victims, his cronies, and our still fragile economy.

But there are some facts that will never change because of the real lives involved – tortured, murdered or totally disappeared from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

49 years

Proclamation 1081, dated Sept. 21, 1972, but announced on Sept. 23, 1972, placed the Philippines under Martial Law. It’s been 49 long years since.

We commemorate it again and again so that we may steadily move forward into a more humane and just future.

Moral demands of memory

As philosopher Jeffrey Blustein said, remembering the victims of wrongdoing is an essential part of the process of building and sustaining political structures that safeguard against a return to the wrongs of the past.

Such is the role of memory in doing justice to the past – to remember those who have died and embrace the moral significance of bearing witness.

As such we should never forget.

Says the Official Gazette: “On this day, Marcos stole Philippine democracy. Institutions were shut down, people were arrested and many were killed.”

Many Marcos loyalists argue that despite Martial Law, the late dictator’s legacy – from infrastructure to a “new economy” remains unparalleled to this day.

Edifice complex

It is easy to be deceived by this narrative because the testaments, the edifices, the monuments are still standing – a world-class cultural center, hospitals, roads, bridges.

But the circumstances with which these infrastructure projects were built cannot be ignored. The Imelda Cultural Center, now known as the Cultural Center of the Philippines, for instance, was built at a time of worsening poverty in the country.

At a cost of P50 million – a fortune at the time, the center was supposedly funded by contributions, the Palace said then.

But in a speech on Feb. 10, 1969, opposition lawmaker Ninoy Aquino, Jr. calling the edifice, “A Pantheon for Imelda,” said:

“Some P35 million already spent have come from US war damage payments secured by former president Diosdado Macapagal on Aug. 12, 1963 and a $5 million foreign loan guaranteed by the National Investment and Development Corp., a Philippine National Bank subsidiary.”

It happened at a time when the government was already bankrupt and “an impoverished mass groans in its want,” he said. Some 77 strike notices had been filed with the Department of Labor at the time.

The money could have been spent better to improve the sorry situation, said the late senator.

“But no...a P50 million cultural center must first be constructed – so the bejeweled elite, the nation’s first 100 families, can enjoy the Bersteins and the Bolshoi.”

San Juanico Bridge

The bridge still stands and remains an important infrastructure. But it was Marcos’ monumental gift to Imelda on her birthday, say the newspapers, and a massive expense for a country with a shaky economy at the time. The P44-million contract was awarded to construction magnate and Marcos crony Rodolfo Cuenca.

The new economy

When Marcos became president in 1965, 13.4 million or 39 percent of the population were living in extreme poverty. After 10 years of his leadership, the number rose to a staggering 20.5 million or 48 percent of the population, says the scholar and activist Ricardo Manapat.

Extravagance and opulence

Against this backdrop, the Marcoses exuded a life of extravagance and opulence; Queen Marie-Antoinette paled in comparison.

Remember that story about how an airplane that departed Rome had to do a mid-air U turn because the former first lady realized she’d forgotten to buy some cheese? How about the buying sprees of New York condominiums and the whole collection of art, antiques, and jewelry?

The Palace spent at least $1.6 million for flowers in the last two years of the Marcoses, the Commission on Audit once said.

There are so many more things to say about the Marcoses – the good, the bad and the ugly – but the most important part of the Marcos story, for me, are the human rights abuses during the dictatorship.

It must never happen again because it is a testament to one of the country’s darkest periods, one that ripped through the heart of the Filipino and nearly broke this nation’s spirit.

Marcos described his life as a victorious one. As he said, for every tear, a victory.

But for the victims of his 20-year dictatorship and in the collective memory of this nation, it was the other way around – for every Marcos’ victory, a tear, buckets even, and for some, it continues to this day. A nation wept and many of us still do.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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